Frequently Asked Questions

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Should I live off campus?

We encourage students to live on campus when it is available; however there is not enough on-campus housing to accommodate the entire student population. Living off-campus comes with more responsibilities than living on-campus, as well as certain freedoms. Over 75% of students at the University live off-campus and Off-Campus Student Services is here to assist in finding housing as well as making the adjustment to off-campus living as smooth as possible.

Do any apartments offer leases shorter than 12 months?

Most apartments require a 12-month lease; however, some apartment communities offer shorter-term leases.
These student oriented apartment communities will consider short-term leases (when available): The Southern @ 1051, Rivers Edge at Carolina Stadium, The Lofts at USC, Pulaski Square, Station at Five Points, and Cayce Cove.

These non-student oriented apartment communities will consider shorter-term leases: Creekside at Greenlawn ApartmentsThe Shores at Elders PondCornell Arms ApartmentsAtrium Place ApartmentsAbberly Village ApartmentsThe TremontGranby Crossing and Granby Oaks

Some apartment communities allow residents to find someone to take over the remaining time in their lease. Please check with apartment community lease transfer and sublease policies if you are considering this option, as many apartments charge a lease transfer fee. Many students advertise and find subleases on the USC student message board.

When should I start looking for housing off campus?

Some of the larger apartment communities will start pre-leasing as early as September for the following academic year. Many students will continue to look at housing options well into the spring semester. Off-Campus Student Services offers 4 off-campus housing fairs each academic year to provide students a convenient way to explore off-campus housing options. If you are looking for a single-unit rental (i.e. a house in a neighborhood), most options are not advertised for lease until late spring or early summer.

How do I find housing off-campus?

There are lots of great options to choose from! We would recommend visiting The Daily Gamecock’s housing locator to explore apartments and houses for rent in the surrounding area. The site provides location, pricing, floor plans, and amenities about each listing. If you are considering living in an apartment community that caters to students, check out our Student Apartment Communities page. Feel free to stop by the Off-Campus Student Services office to discuss your options in person with a member of our team.

What if I am not from the Columbia Area?

While we recommend that leasers visit any property they are thinking of renting before signing the lease, we understand that students and parents often live far away and are not able to visit Columbia to view the property. In such a case, we recommend that you do as much online research as you can about the community or house in question. There is no replacement for seeing the property in person, but reviews and accounts from others can give you a good picture of how well the space will match your needs.

How can I apply to live off-campus as an incoming freshman?

All first-year freshman students are required to live on-campus during their first academic year (two semesters). An appeal may be filed with University Housing by calling 803-777-4283 to request to live off-campus for compelling individual circumstances or because you live locally.

Where can I find more traditional/family friendly housing options?

The Columbia metro area offers a variety of housing options. You can begin your traditional housing search on websites like,,,, and

Can Off-Campus Student Services recommend a place to live off campus?

Off-Campus Student Services can provide students with resources to find off-campus housing and the information necessary to make an informed decision. We do not, however, recommend specific housing or make referrals for housing off-campus. It is important to determine your budget and preferences including location, amenities, transportation and atmosphere in order for you to find the best housing fit for you.

What is the safest place to live off-campus? 

While specific incidents of crime may vary, Columbia is an urban environment, and campus is located in the middle of downtown. Off-Campus Student Services cannot make recommendations regarding where to live, however USC Law Enforcement partners with RAIDS (Regional Analysis and Information Data Sharing) Online, an online crime-mapping tool, to show crime activity in the surrounding area so you can make informed decisions about staying safe. View the local RAIDS online crime map to find out more. As well, USC Law Enforcement offers the RAVE Guardian Safety App, which can alert them or 911, leave anonymous tips, and more, at the push of a button. Students must be vigilant about their personal safety, no matter where they live.

What if I don’t know anyone and need to find a roommate?

We provide a message board for students looking for a roommate. You will find posts from students that have a room and need a roommate as well as students that need a roommate and a place to live. The message boards are used daily with hundreds of posts each semester. Most apartment communities that offer individual leasing will provide assistance with the roommate matching process.

What if I am moving off-campus mid-year or looking for someone to sublease my place?

We provide a message board for students looking to sublease a room and students looking for someone to sublease their room. The message boards are used daily with hundreds of posts each semester.

Does the Student Code of Conduct apply to me off campus?

Yes, the Student Code of Conduct applies to all students enrolled in the University whether on or off campus. If you are enrolled and violate the code of conduct off campus, you could be held accountable on campus through the Office of Student Conduct as well as off-campus by local police.

Can I purchase a meal plan if I live off campus?

Carolina Food Company does offer meal plans to commuter students. Please visit their website for more information on pricing and availability.

Where can I park on campus?

Commuter students have several options for parking on campus – commuter lots, parking garages, or street/meter parking. University lots and garages require specific parking permits. Visit Parking Services to learn more.

Can I use my financial aid to pay for my off-campus housing?

Students may use their financial aid to pay for housing. Once students apply their financial aid to pay their tuition and fees, the remaining balance of aid will be reimbursed to them. It is then up to the student to responsibly manage that lump sum and pay their bills each month. Students should be prepared to cover first month’s rent, any up-front fees, and security deposits out of their own pocket, just in case these are due before the financial aid refund is received. For more information, please visit Student Financial Aid.

Will USC help me resolve a dispute with my landlord/property manager?

Legal assistance for landlord tenant disputes is available through Student Legal Services. This service is provided through South Carolina Legal Services. Student Legal Services can advise students on landlord-tenant disputes, housing, consumer protection, probate law, domestic relations, and employment law. Best of all, it is included in tuition for USC students.

Can I use a 529 plan to pay for off-campus housing?

It depends on your plan because each 529 plan is different. We recommend that you contact the carrier you set up the plan with to ask which educational expenses your 529 plan savings can cover. Projected cost for off-campus living expenses can be found at:

What is a Guarantor?

In the majority of cases, in order to sign a lease, landlords will require the renter to have an income of at least three times the monthly rent. In the case of the many students who cannot meet this requirement, a guarantor or co-signer that can is usually required. A guarantor is any parent, guardian, or trusted adult (age requirements will vary) that can co-sign the lease to assure that the payments and fees will be made in the case that the leaser cannot pay. If you are new to leasing, make sure to have a willing guarantor available.

How much is rent and what else do I have to pay?

Rent in Columbia and the surrounding area can vary greatly. The closer you live to campus the higher the rent will likely be. Some rent payments will cover everything from utilities to high-speed internet to lawn services while others may cover none of those. It is important when looking for a place to live to clarify what the rent payment covers.

The Financial Literacy Program offers a one-hour consultation for students that are moving off-campus. This consultation covers the added financial responsibilities that come with moving out of the residence halls and how to budget wisely to save money while living off-campus. For more information, please contact the Student Success Center at 777-1000.

Where are the closest storage units to campus?

Though we don’t recommend a specific storage unit, these are frequently used by students and close to campus:

Public Storage at Rosewood:
0.9 miles from campus
1305 Rosewood Drive, Columbia, SC 29201
(800) 688-8057 or (803) 200-2868

Public Storage at Knox Abbott:
1.32 miles from campus
540 Knox Abbott Dr., Cayce, SC 29033
(800) 688-8057 or (803) 470-0577

Rosewood Self Storage:
1.4 miles from campus
410 Superior St, Columbia, SC 29205
(803) 252-7526

U-Haul Moving and Storage at Elmwood:
1.6 miles from campus
1037 Elmwood Ave, Columbia, SC 29201
(803) 256-2599

Where can I rent furniture?

These are a few furniture rental companies that are popular with USC students:

Furniture Rentals Inc.
7.2 miles from campus
110 Metal Park Dr, Columbia, SC 29209
(803) 776-1873

Furniture Services, Inc.
620 Spears Creek Road, Elgin, SC
(803) 754-8241

CORT Furniture Rental
89.7 miles from campus
2033 Sirona Dr, Charlotte, NC 28273
(704) 588-2629

Where can I donate or sell furniture/clothes/household items before I move?

Most local thrift shops accept donations: Goodwill, Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity Restore, Palmetto Thrift Store, Pet’s Inc. Thrift Avenue and many more! You can also schedule a donation pick-up from these organizations: Salvation Army – (803) 748-9964, Habitat for Humanity Restore – (803) 936-0090, Palmetto Thrift Store – (803) 750-6858. Many students sell items on: Tradeversity, Craigslist, USC Free and For Sale and Let Go.